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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reasonable Expectations

Tis the season ---- to be jolly, to decorate, to celebrate --- and for too many of us, to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and then to be disappointed when we don't meet them.
I have this vision of the perfectly decorated house -- lights, candles, fresh greenery, red and gold plaid ribbons in perfect bows, gold Christmas ornaments, and a crackling hearth with a fire. It goes with my vision of being perfectly dressed for a variety of holiday events -- plaid silk skirt with the black velvet top, cream wool trousers with the red sweater, -- and with my vision of the perfect holiday party -- carols around the piano by that roaring fire in the hearth, fabulous food and drink, champagne, perhaps, and delightful hors d'ouvres that make everyone's mouth water ---- and, of course, that vision of the cookie baking festival with the twenty-seven varieties of Christmas cookies, perfectly decorated and plated on gorgeous platters, wrapped and bowed for giving and eating. Caroling in the village would be nice too -- with candles and hot cocoa and four part harmony.
Unfortunately --- none of this is reality in my life and, in fact, none of it is all that realistic in my life either. I look around me at the wealthy homes and families and I get lulled into thinking that if these families can do this --- well, so can I. After all, isn't that what riding on the coattails is all about?? Well ---- yes and no.
I took an informal survey this past week of the moms around the place I work. Not the worker moms -- the moms who live in the community and have the wealth, the chic, the style, the class and the elegance. The women I aspire to be like. There were about 14 women I chatted with this past week. All of them have nannies to help with the child care (I didn't have to ask, I deal with the nannies on a regular basis with most of these families). All of them have some kind of cleaning help, ranging from a regular housekeeper to weekly cleaning ladies. Nine of them paid a service to come in and put up the decorations inside and outside the house -- these services string the lights, put up the tree, hand the garlands, and take care of all of the "work" of decorating for Christmas. Since its done by a designer firm, it looks designer elegant and classy. All of them were buying cookies, party food, and even Christmas dinner from area caterers -- none of them were even attempting to do all of that cooking. With the food, the caterers also do the table settings and bring the dishes and flatware, which eliminates the clean-up and dishwashing afterward too. I didn't even ask about shopping. I'm terrified that these women all have some kind of shopping service too. I know that they'll all visit the hairdresser before each party and event and that they'll have their nails done at least once for the holidays.
So, when I look at their "perfect parties" and their "storybook images" this season, I'm not seeing anything that is realistic at all. While riding the coattails of elegance and chic is always my goal -- I need to scale it back a bit at this time of the year. I need to be certain that my goals are achievable given my lack of a housekeeper, nanny, caterer and decorator. I need to decide what are the hallmarks of the chic look and elegant lifestyle that are important to me --- and then I need to let the rest go -- or scale them back alot.
So -- for this year:
--- I'm not doing the cookie thing. I'm just not doing it. I'm not making them. I'm not buying them. I'm not doing it. I can live without it for this year.
--- I've laid out a few holiday outfits for important events. I have the cream and the red and a touch of velvet to see me through the important events. I'll look chic and elegant enough --- there is no silk plaid skirt with the black velvet top --- and there are no matching mother/daughter outfits from Storybook Heirlooms and that's okay. We'll look great anyway.
--- The house looks terrific. We took one full weekend and sweated and struggled and did it. We have a few icicle lights on the porch, candles in the windows, two trees, a candle strewn mantle and some terrific plaid tablecloths. That's about it. And it looks great. Simplicity is elegant.
--- I've wrapped (and am still wrapping) gifts in beautiful paper but I am not doing the fancy ribbons and bows. This is killing me as I have a huge box full of marvelous ribbons and bows that I scooped up on clearance last year. Maybe next year --- but for now, its just not on the high priority list.
---I'm having the fancy party, but the food is going to be buffet only. I'm borrowing from the wonderful Anne Byrn of the Dinner Doctor and the Cake Mix Doctor so that things are easy and tasty. My other mentor and coach this season is the Barefoot Contessa. I'm arranging food more than making it --- thank you Ina. I'll arrange cheeses, fruits and nuts and it will look wonderful and taste even better.
--- as for that carolling fantasy?? Well, we'll just have to wait and see. It might happen. But if it doesn't -- that's okay too. It will still be an absolutely wonderful Christmas